Finally, there is something for Odisha to cheer about. The State which had the highest infant mortality rate and an equally embarrassing maternal mortality rate has come of age. For the first time, Odisha’s IMR has dropped below the national average, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4. From 65 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005-06, the rate is down to 40 compared to the national average of 41.
Focus on reproductive child health through improved institutional delivery, immunisation coverage and nutrition support have helped the State achieve the feat.
The Odisha government may have attributed the turnaround to its IMR Mission and MAMATA Scheme but the Centre’s increasing budgetary spending through an array of innovative schemes also contributed to the success. However, this is just a beginning for the BJD government which had taken over the reins of power in 2000 when the child health scenario was at its lowest ebb. Notwithstanding the improvements, the fact is there still exists glaring gaps as the State continues to record high levels of stunted and wasted children, thanks to the absence of adequate nutritional support. Over 34 per cent children in Odisha report stunted growth while an equal number are underweight.
Scratch the surface and murkier facts emerge. In the erstwhile Koraput-Balangir-Kalahandi region, the status of child health is alarming. In the backward Malkangiri district, at least 45 per cent of the children are stunted while more than half are underweight. Institutional delivery has also not gone beyond 70 per cent in the southernmost district which grabbed national headlines recently after 200 children fell prey to Japanese Encephalitis. In Jajpur’s Nagada, at least 22 children had died due to malnutrition in a span of four months last year. These are indicators no government would be proud of after being in power for 17 long years. It is time the Naveen Patnaik government ensured that no child died of malnutrition in Odisha.